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IBM warns of 'design rule explosion' beyond 22-nm

April 01, 2010 // R. Colin Johnson, EE

An IBM researcher warned of "design rule explosion" beyond the 22-nanometer node during a paper presentation at the International Symposium on Physical Design (ISPD). Kevin Nowka, senior manager of VLSI Systems at the IBM Austin Research Lab, described the physical design challenges beyond the 22-nm node, emphasizing that sub-wavelength lithography has made silicon image fidelity a serious challenge.

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"Simple technology abstractions that have worked for many generations
like rectangular shapes, Boolean design rules, and constant parameters
will not suffice to enable us to push designs to the ultimate levels of
performance," Nowka said.

Solving "design rule explosion," according to Nowka, involves
balancing area against image fidelity by considering the physical
design needs at appropriate levels of abstraction, such as within
cells. Nowka gave examples of how restricted design rules could reap a
three-fold improvement in variability with a small area penalty.

IBM described a solution to "design rule explosion"
at the 22 nanometer node illustrated in an SRAM chip design.

Nowka envisions physical design rules beyond the 22-nm node
that are more technology-aware and which make use of pre-analysis and
library optimization for improved density and robustness, he said.

Also at ISPD, which was held March 14 to 17 in San Francisco, Mentor
Graphics Corp. proposed that hardware/software co-design be used for
chips, their packages and their printed circuit (pc) boards. A Mentor
executive offered an example in which a 26 percent cost savings was
realized by performing such a co-optimization of all three systems

"Thinking outside of the chip," was the key, according to John Park,
business development manager for Mentor's System Design division. By
optimizing the interconnect complexity among all three levels of a
design chip, package and pc board Park claimed that pin counts,
packaging costs and high speed I/O can be optimized.

According to Park, the chip-to-package-to-pc board design flow needs to be performed in parallel because restraints on pc boards often place requirements on
package design, while package requirements can in turn constrain chip
design, both of which are ignored by current designs flows.
Serge Leef, Mentor's vice president of new ventures and general manager
of the company's System-Level Engineering division, invited the
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